Psalm 119

By Sigrid Fowler

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

​Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible. For a brief, useful explication, go to gotquestions.org/Psalm-119.html.The writer makes a number of helpful observations—for example, pointing to the acrostic pattern of the psalm. The eight-line sections follow the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. No English translator I know preserves this detail; however,the Hebrew letter name of each group is usually included. In the Hebrew text, the first eight verses begin with the letter aleph, equivalent to our A, so Aleph appears, then the other letters. One scholar sees in this an emphasis on God’s orderlycharacter and actions.

​In fact, the character of God is often implied and celebrated in this psalm. God is righteous, as are his dealings with us: “You are righteous, O LORD, / And upright in your judgments” (v. 137 ~NASB and all). He says, v. 172, “Let my tongue sing of your word, / for all your commandments are righteousness.” Further, righteousness has to do with following God’s ways: “How blessed are those who observe his testimonies, / Who seek him with all their heart. / They also do no unrighteousness; / They walk in his ways” (vv. 2-3). 

​In his first letter, John writes, “God is love” (1 John 4: 8b) and centuries before, the writer of Psalm 119 expressesthe same observation—lovingkindness is God’s nature: “Revive me according to your lovingkindness, / So that I may keep the testimony of your mouth”(v. 88) and again, “O may your lovingkindness comfort me, / According to your word to your servant” (v.76) or “The earth is full of your lovingkindness, O LORD; / Teach me your statutes” (v. 64).“You are good,” the psalmist also says, “and do good ; / Teach me your statutes” (v. 68). Of God’s compassion and mercy,“May your compassion come to me that I may live, / For your law is my delight” (v. 77). “Great are your mercies, O LORD” (v. 156a).

​God is seen as Savior. Says the psalmist: “I am yours, save me, / For I have sought your precepts” (v. 94).  “I hope for your salvation, O LORD, / And do your commandments” (v. 166). The psalmist is confident in God’s faithfulness: “Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; / You have establish the earth and it stands” (v. 90).

​God’s word is acclaimed as valuable: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, / That I may not sin against you” (v.11). It is better than treasure: “The law of your mouth,” says the psalmist, “ is better to me / Than thousands of gold and silver” (v. 72), and, “I have rejoiced in the way of your testimonies / As much as in all riches” (v. 14). Then, “I rejoice at your word, / As one who finds great spoil” (v. 162). God’s commandments inspire love, “above gold, yes, above finegold” (v. 127b), and pursuing God’s word is better than going after money: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, / And not to gain” (v. 36). 

​The psalmist celebrates God’s word in many ways. “Your testimonies are wonderful; / Therefore my soul observes them,” he writes (v. 129). It gives peace: “Those who love your law have great peace, / And nothing causes them to stumble” (v. 165). God’s word brings joy: “I have inherited your testimonies forever, / For they are the joy of my heart” (v. 111). 

​God’s word is eternal: “Forever, O LORD, / Your word is settled in heaven” (v. 89). It is truth: “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, / And your law is truth” (v. 142). “You are near, O LORD, / And all your commandments are truth” (v. 151); “The sum of your word is truth. / And every one of your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (v. 160). And,“Your word is very pure, / Therefore your servant loves it” (v. 140) making God’s word a guide for life: “How can a young man keep his way pure? / By keeping it according to your word” (v. 9). It gives hope and comfort: “Remember the word to your servant, / In which you have made me hope, / This is my comfort in my affliction, / That your word has revived me” (vv. 49-50). In fact, “You are my hiding place and my shield, / I wait for your word” (v. 114).

​Some all-time favorites are the following: “Your word is a lamp to my feet, / And a light to my path” (v. 105). “Open my eyes, that I may behold / Wonderful things from your law” (v. 18). And everyone can relate to the final verse: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, / For I do not forget your commandments” (v. 176).

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